MANILA, Philippines – Like her costar Jodi Sta. Maria in “Be Careful with My Heart,” Tart Carlos, who plays the kikay nanny Doris in that popular noontime teleserye, is no stranger to independent cinema.
But this is her first participation in the annual Cinemalaya film festival, where she presents another delightful variation on the kikay template in the festival entry, “Ekstra” (by her “Be Careful with My Heart” director, Jeffrey Jeturian).
Now on its 9th year, the festival was launched in its home base, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, on Thursday, July 4. CCP’s artistic director Chris Millado set the inspiring tone of this event, with a rousing pep talk on Cinemalaya and on Philippine cinema that showed his passion for this genre, alongside his prolific track record in theater (among his latest projects being “Pramoedya“).
Tart, interviewed by Rappler, expressed her pride in Cinemalaya and her participation in this enterprise. Does she look forward to a nomination or an acting award? “Ayun lang ang kinakabahan ko, parang hindi [mangyayari],” she said laughing. (That’s what I’m worried about, I don’t think it will happen.)
“Ekstra,” Jeturian’s second Cinemalaya entry after “Bisperas” two years ago, is by itself another affirmation of Philippine cinema that takes a fond look at the bit-role actors who make up this generally neglected sector in the business. “Ekstra” is also notable for being Vilma Santos’s first venture into independent cinema.
Tart says she understands the plight of extras from her own experience. “Ang story nito ay pang ekstra talaga, na naranasan ko for eight years, hindi naman sumweldong ekstra pero naitrato na ring ekstra.” (This story is really for the extras, something I experienced for eight years. I wasn’t paid like an extra but was treated as such for a time.)
Tart Carlos was a comedy-bar performer who was recruited to the entertainment industry on the basis of her talent in comedy. But before “Be Careful,” she found herself typecast in very dramatic roles in films and in the seryes, one as an accomplice to a kidnapping. “It was not until ‘Be Careful with My Heart’ that they tapped me as this baliw-baliwan (zany) na character.”
She takes this peg further in “Ekstra” but qualifies this project as being different from “Be Careful” despite its also light and comic touch. “Mas kikay ako dito. But this project is actually pro-extra or pro-artist. Ang ekstra tinawag lang nating bit role because of what they portray. But they’re artists too.”
Jeturian, who was also at Cinemalaya, regards his film as a tribute to these performers, and not so much a variation on Lino Brocka’s classic “Bona,” starring Nora Aunor. “Ang Bona kasi, fan si Nora doon,” the critically acclaimed director told Rappler. “Yung ‘Ekstra’ naman, ang focus ay nasa ekstra, parang yung role ni Phillip [Salvador sa Bona].”
Tart is thankful to the filmmakers she’s worked with for nurturing her craft. “Kahit na ang role na binibigay sa iyo ay very light, you have to deal with it, bigyan mo siya talaga ng certain character. Katulad nitong si Doris sa ‘Be Careful,’ typical probinsyana, pero gusto niyang magka-boyfriend, yung tipong ganung [background]. Medyo mas demure lang ng kaunti kay Sabel pero she really wants to be just like Sabel, na kikay lang ng sobra.” (Even if you’re given a light role, you have to deal with it, really give it a certain character. Take Doris in “Be Careful,” typical probinsyana, but she wants to have a boyfriend, that type of background, a bit more demure than Sabel but she really wants to be just like Sabel, except that she’s too kikay.)
Tart says her directors guide her a lot in forming a character. “Nagtutulungan lang kami.” (We help each other out.) “Tart, tingnan mo ‘to. Ba’t tumaas any kilay mo dito? Direk, tumaas lang. Ay hindi puwede. Kailangan ipaliwanag mo sa akin.” (Tart, take a look at this. Why’d you raise your eyebrows here? I just did it, Direk. No, you have to explain this to me.)
“That’s how direk Maryo J. de los Reyes would help develop a character. And, of course, direk Jeffrey Jeturian, napakahusay na mentor, na sasabihin niya sa iyo how he wants it pero hahayaan ka lang umatake. So nasa iyo na iyon as an artist. Bahala ka, pero ito ang gusto kong mangyari.” (A great mentor, he’d tell you how he wants it but he’d leave you to how you’ll handle it. It’s up to you as an artist. It’s up to you, but this is how i want it.) “The bangs are actually what I created for my role, and they [the cast] just went along with it.”
For Tart, this is a fascinating time as any in our cinema and entertainment. “Pag dito sa Cinemalaya, parang medyo Lino Brocka time.” (Here at Cinemalaya, we’re a bit on Lino Brocka time.) “And I’ve been watching, browsing, reading up a lot on indie films. Sobra, sobra ang excitement.” (The excitement is just too much.)
Here’s a trailer of Jeffrey Jeturian’s Cinemalaya entry this year, ‘Ekstra’: